Diversity in internal audit.

A few years ago, the audit team at Cardinal Health set out on a mission to expand inclusion for their team. Could inclusion go beyond just matters of ethnicity or gender? The answer was yes. Below, Adam Rutan, director of Internal Audit at Cardinal Health, shares his audit team’s experience of how they expanded inclusion and improved their audit function along the way.

Historically, the Internal Audit profession has not been a leader in the areas of diversity and inclusion. Like many other companies, Cardinal Health places a high amount of value on diversity and inclusion. They have a great strategy which includes training, employee resource groups, and initiatives aimed at helping employees better understand differences, leading inclusively and how to apply those learnings back to their day jobs.


Most importantly, they have a tremendous “commitment from the top” where senior leaders rarely miss an opportunity to speak on the topic of inclusion at company town halls, leadership meetings, and even in one-off conversations. In short, understanding the differences their 50,000 employees bring and including those differences in the company’s vision is a topic the company takes some serious pride in.

Despite Cardinal Health’s successful company diversity and inclusion strategies, the internal audit group still felt they could expand these strategies even further and customize inclusion efforts within their own business unit.  

“For us, Cardinal Health efforts had been traditionally focused on expanding representation around ethnicity and race,” says Rutan. “Although the company has expanded the focus around diversity and inclusion, our group was primarily focused on two things: seeking a diverse slate of candidates for open roles and participating in company-wide inclusion initiatives (e.g., employee resource groups). While these were both necessary and relevant to our aspiration of looking like the markets we serve, we felt we could do more.”

As they sought more, they began to expand the conversation and ideas for their audit team. Below are three areas where they broke down old conventions and built up new ones to create an internal audit function that attracted a more diverse group of individuals.

Inclusiveness in Integrating Work and Life

If you ask most audit leaders, they will tell you they offer flexible scheduling. The days of everyone punching in and punching out at the same time are long gone especially in a global company working across many time zones. “I can’t recall meeting a leader in the last 10 years who doesn’t recognize that today’s workforce is more driven by what gets done as opposed to how much time was spent doing it,” says Rutan.

Despite “flex scheduling,” the common corporate culture is still a 40-hour workweek (and most cases, longer). However, what about offering roles with less than a 40-hour workweek? 

Over the last several years, the Cardinal Health audit team created several flexible schedule roles and found these roles to be very attractive to parents, particularly those with young children.

“Parents who want to spend more time with their newborn or be there for their kids at the bus stop often feel compelled to choose between their career and their children,” comments Rutan. “This could result in them taking roles outside of internal audit or even worse, leaving the workforce all together. Rather than lose these talented employees, we tried to understand where efficiencies could be gained and how we could reallocate workloads. These individuals had experience that taught them how to work efficiently, and in the end, the same amount of work was completed.”

Flexible schedule roles are not without challenges. Not every role can be flexible and you may encounter a “what about me?” response from other staff. There are also legal and compensation considerations that should be reviewed especially in various states and countries. However, according to Rutan, the Cardinal Health team overcame these challenges by being proactive in how they managed workload assignments, the flexible scheduling and were transparent in their communications with everyone. They explained the pros and cons to the team and sought their input.  

Trudy Kahaian, Internal Audit advisor at Cardinal Health, was one of the first to take a flexible schedule role and couldn’t be happier. “At this stage in my career, balancing my family needs and priorities is more significant than climbing the corporate ladder," Kahaian said. "I love the fact that I can tend to these priorities, still do work that I enjoy, and make valuable contributions through my career. It also has given me additional peace of mind to know that if and when the time comes when my priorities shift again, I can step back in without having to start over or having lost valuable experience in the interim.”   

Takeaway: Work-life integration is very important to employees, and initiatives like this can be very appealing. If you offer less-than-40-hour workweeks for some audit positions, here’s how you can expect to grow your diverse population: parents who were former auditors, recently retired auditors, graduate students that showed potential during an audit internship, audit consultants, and others who would simply rather have flexible schedules.  

The days of everyone punching in and punching out at the same time are long gone especially in a global company working across many time zones. #audit Click to Tweet

Inclusiveness in Geography

Most of us have a profile on LinkedIn or some other social-networking platform. And there is probably at least one person in our list of connections who isn’t local but we know would be a great fit in our organization. Technology is allowing the workforce to become more mobile than it has ever been, so why not take a leap of faith and use remote staff in auditing?  

Rutan tells the story of bringing in a remote team member. “About a year ago, I reached out to someone I had previously worked with in hopes of convincing her to relocate. She had been thinking about moving but was not quite ready to make the leap. I was disappointed but the more I thought about it, it seemed crazy to just give up on the situation. We had a role that would be great for her and was exactly what she was looking for. Eager to have her on our team, we talked about the challenges presented by the distance and started outlining how we would overcome them. We thought through how we could minimize travel expenses, so that we could allocate a small budget for her to fly in a few times a year for a couple days to connect with the team. We also began using Facetime for team meetings and huddles.”

The biggest challenge of using remote staff is they can miss out on some of those day-to-day intangibles that help a team connect (i.e., not being there for the small talk) and can help their career progress. “Our remote team member understood the importance of maintaining close connections, as well. She made a point to have a conversation with everyone on the team daily. This way, neither she nor the team settled for an “out of sight, out of mind” dynamic,” says Rutan

Takeaway: Great auditors can be found anywhere and as auditors, we should always be on the lookout for solid talent. Maybe someone relocated several years ago to be closer to family, maybe their spouse took a new job, or maybe it’s someone you ran into at a conference and they impressed you. Regardless of how you’ve crossed paths, don’t give up on candidates that you want. Get creative! Since leveraging this solution, the audit group has gone from having no remote staff to two auditors now working remotely. Perhaps more importantly, they are developing the know-how to manage these types of arrangements so that they are open to them in the future.

Inclusiveness in Talent Selection

Just because a person isn’t an auditor by profession doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be great at auditing.

Several years ago, Cardinal Health had a number of audits that did not go well within a specific part of the business. This led to a lot of frustration on the audit team’s part, as well as their clients. “Time and time again we heard about how we ‘just didn’t understand the business,’” remembers Rutan.

As Rutan and his business partner discussed ways to better educate both teams, a role switch program was suggested. They would hire one person on each team (the audit team and the client’s team) with the intent of switching them after a year.  

Ideally, the person who had been embedded in the other team would then help educate and train their current team. “Having lived it for a year,” says Rutan, “both the business and audit members would be in a better position to understand the needs of the other and communicate effectively.” Rotational programs not only educate the auditor but also infiltrate the business with sound auditing principles. The program can be a win-win. In diversity and inclusion language, this exchange program was a great way to understand differences and identify those insider/outsider dynamics playing out between the audit function and clients.

Takeaway: Focusing on finding an employee who knows about populations, sample sizes, and other auditor specifics can narrow the talent base too much. A good communicator with a drive to learn can be a successful auditor and team leader. Find candidates with desired soft skills and teach them the hard skills specific to the audit function.

Conclusion

For Cardinal Health, their audit team stepped out of their comfort zone of the pond and leapt into deeper waters of inclusive leadership. The change took some getting used to, but the discomfort was a small side effect to the greater returns. “As we explored what inclusion really looks like, we saw our resources broaden in numbers and backgrounds, deepen in talent, and ultimately deliver on our objectives more successfully.  This is supported by our improvement in client feedback and employee engagement scores.”

Has your company expanded diversity and inclusion in a new way? If so, how?

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